May 21, 2016 – Nicholas “Nick” Menza was born on July 23, 1964 in Münich, Germany. As the son of jazz musician Don Menza, Nick began playing drums at the age of two, at which age he performed at his first public concert when during the intermission someone sat him down on Jack DeJohnette’s drums and he proceeded to play. His influences stem from being nurtured around the tutelage of such notables as Buddy Rich, Steve Gadd, Nick Ceroli, Jeff Porcaro and Louie Bellson.
Beginning his professional musical career at the age of 18 drumming in the band Rhoads featuring singer Kelle Rhoads, brother of the late Randy Rhoads, Nick released his first record with Rhoads called Into the Future in Europe.
Moving on to session playing including styles ranging from R&B to gospel, funk and heavy metal, recording with the likes of John Fogerty, Nick caught the attention of then Megadeth drummer Chuck Behler and became his tech. He had also been chosen to play in Slayer on South of Heaven, but original drummer Dave Lombardo came back and beat Menza in the audition. When Megadeth needed a drummer in 1989, Nick Menza was asked by Dave Mustaine to join the band. Mustaine noted that Menza previously filled in on drums when Behler was unable to. Menza first played live with Megadeth on May 12, 1988 in Bradford, England. This prior experience and personal relationship led to the invitation to join Megadeth for the 1990 recording Rust in Peace.
For the next ten years, Nick became associated with Megadeth’s “classic” period and also his Greg Voelker Rack System. This included a double-bass drum kit with the tom-toms mounted on a lower chrome rack and all cymbal crashes mounted on a higher rack, which was supported by two chrome bars behind the drummer. This was later adopted by Megadeth on 2004’s Blackmail the Universe tour, which featured a similar rack system.
During his stint in Megadeth, Nick also played drums on his bandmate Marty Friedman’s three solo albums Scenes (1992), Introduction (1994), and True Obsessions (1996).
By the summer of 1998, while the band was still touring in support of Cryptic Writings, Menza was having knee problems and sought medical advice. He was informed he had a tumor, which was later found to be benign, and had it removed. Rather than cancel any dates, Megadeth hired Jimmy DeGrasso as a temporary replacement. When the time came to record a follow-up album, Menza was not asked back and DeGrasso became the band’s official drummer. Menza has said in several interviews that, while in the hospital recovering from knee surgery, he received a phone call from Mustaine that simply said “Your services are not needed anymore“.
After his departure, he began work on Menza: Life After Deth with guitarist Anthony Gallo, bassist Jason Levin, and guitarist Ty Longley. The album was initially intended to have a 2002 release date and tour to follow, however, on the tour in 2003 with the reformed Great White, Longley was among the 100 people killed in The Station nightclub fire in Rhode Island and a year later Jason Levin died of heart failure, Menza and Gallo were devastated and the Life After Deth tour was never announced. Guest guitarist Christian Nesmith, son of The Monkees Michael Nesmith, did some leads and Menza hired producer Max Norman (Ozzy Osbourne, Megadeth).
Following the reissue of the entire Megadeth catalog, Menza was invited to reunite with Megadeth in 2004. Days after a reunion was announced Menza was fired after rehearsals and replaced with Shawn Drover. Dave Mustaine said that this was because Nick “just wasn’t prepared” for a full scale US tour, physically.
In April 2006, Menza joined the Los Angeles-based metal band Orphaned to Hatred. The group describe their sound as “a continuation of the heavy style of ’90s Pantera”. He left the band in late 2010.
Menza nearly suffered the loss of an arm in 2007, after having an accident with a power saw. He required reconstructive surgery and metal plates in his arm and a lengthy rehabilitation, but eventually recovered. Menza later auctioned off the blood-stained saw blade and an original copy of an X-ray from the incident.
In March 2011, Menza appeared in a music video for Mindstreem’s “We Up Next” a song originally written by current SIN 34 guitarist Anthony Gallo featuring Tony Lanza and Daniel Wayne Jr. on Vocals. The actual recording is Menza (drums), Gallo (guitars), Gregg Babuccio (bass), and Tony Lanza and Daniel Wayne jr. (vocals).
Also in March 2011, Menza’s band Deltanaut posted up a video for their song “Sacrifice”.
Menza died on May 21, 2016 after succumbing to heart failure while performing with his band, OHM, in Los Angeles. He was 51.